New Delhi: The NGO Common Cause on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court seeking to put an end to the “misuse and misapplication” of the sedition law (Section 124A IPC) by the Centre and state governments against students, journalists and intellectuals engaged in social activism.
The NGO Common Cause has contended that the arbitrary manner in which the sedition law was being invoked against activists was “to instil fear and to scuttle dissent”.
The PIL has cited the cases of Binayak Sen, anti-nuclear activists S.P. Udayakumar, Tamil folk singer S. Kovan, JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar, Delhi University Professor S.A.R. Geelani and the recent instance of invoking sedition charges against Amnesty India for organising a debate on Kashmir.
The PIL by the NGO says that the sedition law as being applied today was contrary to the parameters laid down by the top court’s constitution bench more than 50 years ago (1962) in the Kedar Nath case.
The constitution bench in its 1962 judgment had said that the gist of the offence of sedition is “incitement to violence” or the “tendency or the intention to create public disorder”.
Besides NGO Common Cause, the petition has also been filed by S.P. Udayakumar – an anti-nuclear activist against whom sedition charges have been made.
Referring to the instance of misuse or misapplication of the sedition law, the petitioners have contended that various cases of sedition filed in recent years failed to stand judicial scrutiny.
Referring to the National Crime Records Bureau report for 2014, the petition says that as many as 47 sedition cases were filed that year in nine states. Many of these cases did not involve violence or incitement to violence, which is a pre-requisite for a sedition charge.
Pointing to the arbitrary manner in which the law was applied, the petition says that in 2014, 58 persons were arrested in connection with these cases, but the government could manage only one conviction.
Seeking to curb the misuse of the sedition law, the NGO has sought several directions including that the Director General of Police or the Commissioner of Police should certify that the “seditious act” either led to incitement of violence or had the tendency or intention to create public disorder, before any FIR is filed or any arrest made against any individual.
Similarly, in the case of private complaint, a magistrate should take cognizance that a case of “seditious act” was made out in line with the parameters laid down by the top court’s constitution bench in the Kedar Nath case.